Plenty of people have little habits and idiosyncrasies that become routine behaviours we simply get used to — things such as chewing nails, hair twirling and toe tapping, to name a few.
Have you ever noticed your canine companion has little habits and idiosyncrasies, too? Plenty of owners observe their dog licking paws, scratching behind an ear or chewing at his feet. Often these behaviours are harmless habits that we get used to seeing with our pets, and are easily dismissed.
Occasional licking, chewing and scratching are normal — but if they become chronic, that may not be as normal as you think.
Many pet owners ignore these behaviours, especially when they do not see anything else develop. Like nail chewing, hair twirling or toe tapping, the behaviour is dismissed as a habit.
However, a dog that chronically licks and chews at his legs or paws, or scratches at his ears, may be showing signs of allergies.
Allergies in dogs often involve the irritation of skin and ears, as opposed to those runny eyes, sniffly nose and sneezing symptoms more common in people. The constant scratching, licking or chewing may be an attempt to soothe a skin irritation.
Most veterinarians believe that food is the most common source of allergies in pets, and because it is something simple and easy to change, it is a good place to start.
Trying a different meat source, such as lamb instead of chicken, might do the trick for some dogs; for others, the grains may be the problem. There are plenty of pet food options that contain an alternative to the grain, such as potato instead of rice, or you may choose a grain-free formula.
It is important to note that you won’t see instant results when you change your dog’s diet. If you are trying an alternative food, it will take several weeks for the full effect of the diet change to kick in.
You may notice an improvement at week two or three, but most vets do recommend giving a food change trial two or three months to allow your pet’s body to completely adapt to the new diet.
Changing food isn’t always easy for our furry friends, and taking time to transition between your pet’s old and new diet is also important.
While some dogs adapt easily to food changes, others may have some digestive issues if the transition happens too fast. If your dog tends towards a more sensitive stomach, try mixing the old and new diet, gradually putting in more of the new and less of the old until the transition is complete.
If a food change doesn’t do the trick, there are many other things that can cause allergies in pets. Like humans, many of our furry friends have allergies to their environment, including things like grass, pollen, dust, mould, fabrics, etc.
In these cases, antihistamines or alternate allergy medications might be more helpful in preventing symptoms. It is important to talk to your vet about your concerns to find out what alternative options might be available for your pet.
Allergies are very common in our pets, and not every case is a pet that gets chronic ear infections or severe skin rashes. Some dogs have more mild allergies and symptoms are a bit more subtle. Itchy ears and paws can be a sign that your furry friend has allergies.
Dana Grove is an animal lover who works with several pet organizations in Brandon.
Republished from the Brandon Sun print edition September 4, 2014